Blue Bulls flyhalf Morné Steyn has not been spoken of much in terms of Springbok selections, but the 23-year-old No.10 has a message for Bok coach Peter de Villiers and his national selection panel: ‘I am ready to make the step up.’
Jan De Koning writes for Rugby 365 that it is not an arrogant statement from the youngster. It is merely a declaration of intent.
Steyn, speaking to rugby365.com in the build-up to the Bulls’ Currie Cup encounter with Griquas in Kimberley on Friday, has made it clear that he is determined to leave his mark on the playing field now that he has been installed as the first-choice pivot in Pretoria.
Having played second fiddle to Springbok Derick Hougaard – often being used in a rotational role when the latter was injured or needed a break – Steyn now enjoys the luxury of a regular starting spot behind the beefy Bulls pack.
With Hougaard having followed former mentor Heyneke Meyer to Leicester, where he signed for the Tigers earlier this year, Steyn has grown in confidence and his game matured beyond recognition.
“For my confidence it is important to know that I will start every game,” Steyn told rugby365.com.
“Now I can enjoy my game and don’t have to worry if I will play or won’t play,” he said, adding that when Hougaard was in town he never knew whether he was No.1 or No.2.
“Now that he [Hougaard] is away [with Meyer at the Tigers in England] I can concentrate on my game.”
The other luxury that Steyn don’t have to move around in the backline as much anymore – having played, apart from his flyhalf role, at centre and fullback at times.
“Yes, it is definitely better to settle down in one position. I see the same with [Sharks and Springbok star] Frans Steyn … that they move him around so much. It is never easy, so for me to start every game at flyhalf and only move to centre in the last 10 or 15 minutes of a game is much better, because I can focus on my role and my job as No.10.”
Steyn, despite now having the experience of 69 provincial caps for the Blue Bulls and 44 Super Rugby caps for the Bulls to his credit, readily admits that there are aspects of his game that he feels can still improve – as he chases that coveted first Green and Gold cap.
“I work very hard on my tactical kicking,” he said, adding that former Bulls mentor and now Tigers coach Heyneke Meyer often told him that Derick Hougaard was a better tactical kicker and that is why he [Hougaard] was Meyer’s preferred choice at No.10.
“I have worked really hard at it and I feel I am on the same level now that Derick was.
“I am still working hard at it to get it to a level where I can maybe get into the Bok team. Yes, if there is one aspect where I may have been below standard, it is my tactical game, and I’ve worked on that to get it to a standard where I am of international quality and hopefully soon I will be able to wear the Green and Gold.”
Like every young South African player Steyn also dreams of getting that call from the national coach.
“There is no doubt that every player’s goal is to play for the Boks and it remains a huge honour to play for your country,” he said – having had a taste of the international stage when he played for SA at the 2005 International Rugby Board (IRB) Under-21 World Championships.
The one aspect of his game that Steyn seldom gets credit for, is his defence. In fact he has often been targeted as a ‘weak link’ in the Bulls’ normally solid defensive line.
However, his performance in the Blue Bulls’ emphatic 23-5 Currie Cup win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last Saturday prove beyond doubt that to labelling Steyn as a defensive soft spot is a major mistake.
Along with inside centre Wynand Olivier they made an amazing 43 tackles in the game. Olivier made an impressive 23 tackles in 80 minutes, whilst Steyn made 20 in 80 minutes.
“It [defence] is something I have worked on very hard since school,” Steyn said.
“My defence is going well at the moment and I enjoy it, I enjoy the physical side of the game.”
Those who analyse flyhalves often focus more on whether his kicking game is on par and as Steyn pointed out, they don’t look at the finer details.
“I focus on what is important for the team and for the team I want to be solid on defence so I don’t let them down.”
Having placed his marker in the Bok selection tray, Steyn now has another month of Currie Cup rugby in which to highlight that ‘statement of intent’ before the Bok team for the year-end tour to Wales, Scotland and England is announced.
Last week’s win over the Cheetahs was the first step for Steyn, but it is important that as a team the Bulls continue to perform to ensure the individuals shine.
He said the Cheetahs are always an enjoyable game, because they make it physical and it is even more enjoyable to beat them in Bloemfontein.
But more importantly they needed that win to stay ahead of the ever-improving Lions.
“The most import part is our drive for first place on the standings – which will give us home ground advantage in the semifinals and a possible Final,” Steyn said.
“We have Griquas [in Kimberley this week] and the Falcons [in Pretoria the week after] left to play and our goal is five points out of each match.”Tweet